The International Film Festival of India, now on here, usually becomes a flurry of activity on Day Two. One of the most important events yesterday was the opening of the Indian Panorama, a very important segment of the Festival that is very often neglected, sidelined and even forgotten. Two movies – a documentary and a feature – set the Panorama rolling.
Jaideep Varma’s Leaving Home is a haunting documentary of a music band, called Indian Ocean. A four-member team that has been around for 18 years in New Delhi, bound by sheer passion for music and amazing energy, it has released 30 songs that refuse to age. Absolutely unconventional, not conforming to any music industry norms, their songs and instrumental pieces are in many languages and sometimes dialects not easily understood. But, then, there is music and melody in them that just mesmerise you, as it did to me when I watched the film.As Varma says, "despite using a rock format with vocals, guitar, bass and drums (and tabla), the difficulty in slotting their music into any specific genre is indicative of their uniqueness. The fact that they sing in so many different languages (mostly Indian) and yet are tremendously accessible and catchy, suggests a lightness of touch only the greats can pull off
Varma has captured the essence and spirit of the band, with imaginative intercuts – often panning his camera with rare speed from one face to another. Yet, the information flows with clarity and engagingly. The editing is crisp, and ensures that nothing is lost or is even vaguely confusing.
And most importantly, he balances this energetic style with the right notes of patience. Varma lets each number play out fully, thereby getting, I am sure, even those deaf to music, hooked on to the Indian Ocean. Soon, the foot is tapping and the heart humming.
In contrast, the feature, Anant Narayan Mahadevan’s Mee Sindhutai Sapkal, strikes a somber note, tracing the spirit of a woman who braved extreme odds to win her battle. Based on the life of Sindhutai, who was also present at the screening, the movie is a powerful biopic of a Wardha woman, married at 12 and soon deserted by her husband, who accused her of having an affair. Forlorn and frustrated, the young girl notices a tree that has been axed, but still managing to give shelter and shade. The tree seemed to be mocking, Sindhutai, who was about to end her life, and her cowardice. It appeared to be telling her that her life, despite being shattered and broken (like the tree’s), could still serve humanity. Sinduthai begins a new journey, opening orphanages, and much later when her old husband turns up, she adopts him as well!
The Outside Drama
Outside the theatres, life was equally dramatic. As Mahadevan quipped, “there is more drama to be seen on the lawns of the Festival venue than inside the auditoriums”. Here are a few examples. Some delegates, a few claiming to be members of the Panorama Jury, found that they had no invites for the Panorama inauguration. It was only after their loud protests that the organising Directorate of Film Festivals stepped in and allowed them to get in.
At the National Film Development Corporation’s lunch at the Marriott Hotel here, the Joint Secretary (Films) of the Information and Broadcasting Ministry, was stopped at the gate by the burly security guard, who said that he was under strict instructions not to let allow anybody in. And, mind you, the Corporation, though an autonomous body, functions under the Ministry. Of course, the Secretary managed to get in, though after embarrassingly long moments. The lunch was part of the four-day Film Bazaar, organised by the Corporation.
Much as one would like to admire the rapid strides the Corporation has made in developing the Bazaar, getting a host of national and international celebrities to attend, it must, however, be said that small but annoying organisational glitches ought be addressed to make the Bazaar an even more pleasant experience.
The Chopra Censure
A disgusted Yash Chopra, veteran movie-maker and producer, lamented on the sidelines of the Bazaar that although the Film Festival was being held in Panaji for the sixth year in a row, the Goa Government had done precious little to uplift it. Initially inspired by Cannes, whose locale seemed so akin to Goa’s own sun and sand and sea, the Indian Festival is hardly on par with its French counterpart on the Mediterranean. All that Goa has managed to do in these six years is cosmetically copy Cannes. One of them is the Red Carpet, with a live band following the evening’s celebrities making their way into the venue.
Chopra made a strong plea for corporate sponsorships. “Only then can the Festival hope to become meaningful”, he added. Perhaps.
(Gautaman Bhaskaran has been watching IFFI for a quarter century)